Dell Computer CEO and Chairman Michael Dell was one of three executives chosen by the World Economic Forum to question Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on stage January 28. Dell acknowledged Russia’s strength in science and technology but hinted that Russia had not leveraged those strengths fully and offered aid. Putin’s withering reply: “We don’t need any help.”
“We are not invalids, we do not have limited capacity,” said Putin. “People with limited capacities, abilities should be helped…developing countries should be helped.” Russia has successfully expanded its IT infrastructure throughout the country, said Putin. Every Russian school has access to PCs and even remote towns in Siberia now have Internet access, he said. He went on to praise Russian software engineering, arguing that it is world class and can hold its own against the best, including India’s outsourcing sector. The founders of India’s software sector, including top executives from Infosys and WIPRO, were sitting in the audience.
Putin’s reaction to Dell’s question was overly harsh but is symbolic of the frustration of countries throughout the world that continue to be looked down upon by the U.S. Innovation happens everywhere and some the next great tech companies are likely to be built elsewhere.
I dashed from Putin’s talk to a Davos dinner on privacy. Participants included LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman, ICANN Chairman Paul Twomey, French blogger and entrepreneur Loic LeMeur, London-based tech entrepreneur Tom Ilube, CEO of Garlik and Paul Deniger, vice chairman of investment bank Jeffries. The discussion was about whether it is possible to keep anything private in the Internet age. One of the conclusions was that the techies that run networks have access to all our data and could use that power to do evil.